The COVID-19 pandemic made some Canadians realize that it was possible to work without commuting to the office.
Research Co. and Glacier Media wanted to take a look at whether this circumstance has brought them closer to entrepreneurship.
Across the country, 44 per cent of Canadians who are not currently managing their own business told us last month that they have considered starting or operating one.
On this initial question, the age and gender differences are noteworthy. More than half of Canadians aged 18 to 34 (54 per cent) have pondered running their own company, compared to 47 per cent of those aged 35 to 54 and only 28 per cent of those aged 55 and over. While a majority of men can picture themselves heading their own business (54 per cent), fewer than two in five women feel the same way (36 per cent).
No industry dominates when Canada’s prospective entrepreneurs pinpoint what they would focus on. Hospitality and food are first on the list with 13 per cent, climbing to 21 per cent in Atlantic Canada and 20 per cent in Alberta.
Only two other sectors reach 10 per cent on this question: Technology, and finance. Canada’s prospective entrepreneurs outline a full range of opportunities, including entertainment and recreation (eight per cent), arts and fashion (also eight per cent), repair and maintenance (seven per cent), health and social services (also seven per cent), construction (six per cent), agriculture (four per cent), transportation (three per cent) and real estate (also three per cent).
In British Columbia, residents who dream about opening a business are primarily looking at hospitality and food (13 per cent) and entertainment and recreation (10 per cent). On the technology front, there is currently more appetite among Ontarians (15 per cent) and Atlantic Canadians (11 per cent) than British Columbians (eight per cent).
We asked Canada’s prospective entrepreneurs about their motivations to abandon their current occupation to start a new business. More than half are moved by two ambitions: Doing something they enjoy (53 per cent) and being their own boss and not having to report to anyone (52 per cent).
More than a third of Canada’s prospective entrepreneurs are also encouraged by earning more than they currently do (40 per cent) and the promise of flexibility and a better work-life balance (35 per cent). Fewer would pursue this goal for fun and adventure (23 per cent), to provide a new service or create something new (18 per cent) and to have the chance to manage and mentor others (six per cent).
There are some gender discrepancies when Canada’s prospective entrepreneurs consider the most appealing aspects of starting a new business. Women are more likely to treasure flexibility than men (39 per cent to 30 per cent), while men are more enthused than women at the notion of making more money (43 per cent to 38 per cent).
In British Columbia, the biggest motivator for prospective entrepreneurs having nobody to report to (53 per cent), but the province is ahead of the national average on creating something new (23 per cent). No other region comes close to matching British Columbia as a place where residents can dream about the “next big thing.”
There are, of course, circumstances that stop people from starting their own business. The perceptions of respondents on these drawbacks are varied. More than a third of Canada’s prospective entrepreneurs (38 per cent) say they are held back because they do not have enough savings, while slightly fewer are worried about the risks involved (33 per cent) and their own lack of experience running a business (28 per cent).
Three issues are a problem for 20 per cent of Canada’s prospective entrepreneurs: Being happy with their current job situation, not knowing if the service or product they are contemplating is viable, and not knowing how to get started. Fewer voice concerns with securing proper financing (18 per cent), dealing with too much regulation and bureaucracy (also 18 per cent) and lacking the time to develop a plan (15 per cent).
A lack of savings is a particularly big problem for prospective entrepreneurs in Alberta (43 per cent) and Ontario (42 per cent). Three in ten of those in the highest income bracket (30 per cent) say that having a good job right now takes away the drive to pursue a unique business.
At this moment, Canada’s prospective entrepreneurs find common ground on two positive components of their expected new life: A gratifying job with no supervisors. Fear, expressed as a combination of risk and the lack of secure funds in case of failure, is holding some back. We will have to wait to see if the next year of post-pandemic work moves these numbers.
Mario Canseco is president of Research Co.
Results are based on an online study conducted from March 10-20, 2023, among 2,000 Canadian adults, including 883 who have considered starting or opening a business of their own. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for gender and region. The margin of error, which measures sample variability, is plus or minus 2.2 percentage points for the entire sample and plus or minus 3.3 percentage points for the sample of prospective entrepreneurs, 19 times out of 20.